Friday, December 28, 2012
We arranged a clearing on the floor of the hayloft and lit four candles in glass jars. After arranging ourselves in various ways on the hay (one of us swinging from the rafters as the high hay piles gave access to new heights) we were able to think about Jesus in new perspectives. The hay was scratchy, and we knew from experience it probably had some spiders. The barn was drafty yet cozy, and held the smell of animals along with the foreign sounds of the horses' movements beneath us. The animals were confused by our presence, and I wonder how the animals responded when Mary and Joseph entered their space. Maybe there were no animals there as the season for sheep being in the fields was upon them. I still find it appalling that God would allow His Son, His Heir and co-Creator of all creation, to make His physical appearing to mankind in the context of a used feeding trough. Really, how deplorable. I would never, of my own free will, lay my child in a feeding trough or manger. "Away in the Manger" took on a more substantial meaning as we sang with scratchy-though-sincere voices as we inhaled the dust from the hay into our lungs.
The past two days I have interacted at Children's Hospital and Ronald McDonald House with the Matheny's, our friends whose daughter has leukemia. As I visited with Kim, the mom, she told me with tears in her eyes, that she would do anything to stop her daughter's suffering, anything. Kim has spent the past month watching Kierra go through a bone marrow transplant, seemingly coming as close to death as possible, with the hopes that she'll make a recovery. Kim proceeded to tell me that she sees God's love for us in a whole new way. He sent His Son into suffering and had the power to stop any struggle, but never did because of His great love for us. How truly foreign Love is. Only Love Himself can define Love. The world offers us many definitions for love, and broken meanings of Christmas to boot, but Love in the form of a suffering servant, born in a dirty stable is not love in the dictionary of our self-gratifying soul.
The Love of our God coming to earth in a stable is contradictory to the world and divinely marvelous! How thankful we are as a family to celebrate Christmas in our hayloft with the Love of our Saviour burning brighter than the candlelight.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Remembering Our Family Dog
January 11, 2012
“The Best Dog Ever”
Can you guess the best dog ever?
I bet that you can not.
Because it is MY dog.
MY dog is the best dog ever.
My dog’s name is Jingle Belle Ritchey.
This afternoon our family crowded in a vet’s exam room to say goodbye to one of our family members (albeit she was also of the canine family.) Jingles came to our home Christmas morning 10 years ago, jiggling in a wrapped box whose lid lifted off to our 2 year old, Hadiah’s, delight. Hannah was 6 months old then. I have often looked back on that first year with Jingles as holding one of the worst decisions of my life- getting a puppy who needed a wild place to run, while we were living in the suburbs, Dasen was in surgery residency, my Dad was fighting with us about his dementia, I was working, and caring for my 2 girls full-time and my Dad part-time. What was I thinking?
Yet today, I look back on that time and think... that was one of the best decisions of our lives. Even though she ate all our Christmas presents one year, destroyed my dining room chairs, chewed my cell phone, and once took off attached to our baby stroller with my baby in it...she turned out to be a delight. And I am so delighted that for 10 months before she died, that we were able to all move to a farm and see her really thrive. She had herded for years, sometimes it was the vacuum or lawn mower, and often she herded our girls. Our Australian Cattle Dog needed a job, and the job she took most seriously was taking care of her girls.
Once when our family was on a walk with 3 young children, our girls got too far ahead of us. We let Jingles off the leash and said, “Go get ‘em!” She sprinted, circled them and pushed them toward us while nosing their ankles. She had learned the first few months that although her breed is also called “Blue Heeler”, she was not to actually bite at their heels as her instincts directed her. I knew that if the girls were outside playing, and if any strangers, or men came around, Jingles would not let them near. She would alert me with barking and genuinely scare off anyone who came near without my permission.
Her first few years, many people were afraid of her... some neighbors up the street who were twice herded on their bikes, the mailman and meter reader. Yet I knew she would never bite anyone unless she were defending her family, which happened one night- at least from her perspective. One night, around 2 AM, a stranger came into our house without knocking or greeting me. This “Stranger” was actually someone I had known years before, yet Jingles or the girls had never met them. Why they entered without even knocking, especially when our dog was growling at them, I still don’t know. But they pushed right on, opening the door with Jingles guarding and growling. When they didn’t leave, Jingles nipped their hand off the doorknob. There was no depth to the bite, but it was enough to let us all know, she meant business.
Moving to a farm presented new challenges to Jingles. So much room to run and move, yet she stayed near us. She loved to bark at the horses while we were working with them- it always seemed like a wild attempt to seem useful to me. Once when our little, fat miniature, Prancer Fatso Hotrod Ritchey, got loose, Jingles barked like crazy and usefully herded him into the corral. Once Jingles was stepped on by our big Tennessee Walker as she tried to herd him out in the field. That didn’t happen twice. The other major challenge to Jingles were the chickens. She didn’t pay attention to them much for months, until one day, chaos broke out with a pony cart wreck, and Jingles felt the chaos and multiplied it. That was the day she ate Elle’s beloved pet chicken, Goldilocks. There was much crying that day. She went on to kill one more chicken after that, before we vowed to never let Jingles and the chickens in contact again.
God took care of Jingles when our family went to Africa for 6 months, and to Europe for another 3 weeks. He provided care for her through other caring people, for which we are still deeply grateful. Returning to Jingles validated that we indeed had finally come back to home base. She provided stability to our family, consistency, unfading love, affection, protection, and even bonding. She was the first dog we ever had together as “our family.” Dasen and I never had a pet jointly owned and chosen like Jingles, and the girls have never known any other dog as their own.
Over Thanksgiving and New Year’s Jingles practiced hospitality like the rest of us. Often when friends would visit our farm, they would bring their dog, and we all, including Jingles liked it that way. She seemed fine over New Year’s, but over the following days, she stopped eating and got weaker and weaker. After a visit to the vet this week, we found she had a large mass in her abdomen, probably in her spleen, and her liver wasn’t functioning well either. We were given a recommendation of a surgery. Dasen and I decided to have a family meeting to decide together what to do. With complete unison, we agreed that even though resources were available to give her surgery, that we would choose not to do it. We agreed to donate the money we would have spent on her surgery to the “poor fund” at the hospital in Cameroon, West Africa. There are family members and patients who live there on the lawn and are asked not to leave until their bill is paid. They put their lives on hold and try to work for that hospital, or find other work nearby, which is difficult to do. I was so pleased with our girls for seeing beyond themselves to remember the poor as Jesus said.
So we celebrate the gift God gave us of Jingles. She was a gift of fun and companionship. Thank you God for her life and for knowing our future and how she would fit in it so completely. We like what You’ve done in our lives, from the big things like Eternal Life and Peace, to the more nitty gritty parts, like giving us this exuberant, speckled, herding hunk of love.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Tonight is a windy, temperate fall night. It’s the kind of night in which a loose aluminum gate blows in the wind and gently creeks. It’s the kind of night in which the sun slowly sank un-noticed while we had a family meeting filled with exuberant life and vigor. The three older girls rushed to their Christmas performance practice at church while Dasen, Elle and I tended to some matters on the farm.
It was shortly after 6 o’clock when Elle and I walked to the front pasture, carrying a halter and lead line for Hope, Hadiah’s 2 1/2 year old horse in training. Hadiah had had trouble getting her in from the field earlier in the day, and I told her I’d go out and put her in the corral to separate her from the other horses. I had a feed scoop to lure Hope toward me and provide a friendly gesture. She didn’t want the halter on, and as she threw her head around, I quickly sent Elle to the other side of the fence to be out of harm’s way. Then after applying the halter, I responded to her pulling up and away from me, with a few quick jerks on the lead line and firmly saying, “No.”
That’s when everything went terribly wrong. Hope reared much higher this time, very close to me as I had the lead line in my hands and she was less than an arm’s length’s away. Then it seemed moments held in time, while I tried to process what had just happened. My mind was sharpened to a present acuity that I have not experienced previously. I was in imminent danger as the horse’s hoof when rearing had gotten stuck in the hood of the winter coat I was wearing. It took me a while to process this and I jerked hungrily toward the hood and hoof, trying to seperate them. I yelled as loudly and clearly as I could for Dasen, realizing with the wind, and the truck engine he was working on, that he couldn’t hear me. My mind was very calm and orderly while the horse jerked and pulled. Next I yelled to Elle...”Go get Daddy”, which she did, but I knew he couldn’t get there in time, and there was no way he could rescue me. The next option, my mind focused on was “I have to remove this coat.” More jerking and pulling as my body was thrown around. I yanked at the zipper, thinking “I have to stay up, if she pulls me down I will be trampled and drug. I have to stay...." and bam, down to the ground I was thrown, with the hoof still lodged and thrashing inches from my head. All within the same instant of realizing Dasen couldn’t get there in time, and I couldn’t get the coat off, and I have to stay up, and the jerking motion of being pulled backward, I yelled....”Heavenly Father!”, knowing He was (and is) my only hope. Then in that instant, God worked a miracle. I was down on the ground with my head between her hooves while she pulled fiercely, and my jeans tearing as she pulled my body across the ground, and as soon as those words “Heavenly Father” broke between my lips, the hoof came dislodged, and amazingly she didn't stomp on me as she made contact with the ground again.
Much processing will be done with prayer and caution as we assess the safety of interacting with horses. My life was very nearly trampled with 1000 pounds of equine force in contact with my head- which is still very sore and swollen. Yet this I know...my Heavenly Father is real and He saved me. By no other Name can one be saved. He alone holds the power of horses and oceans, and He alone is mighty to save. I am still processing the shock and adrenaline and fear and bewilderment of how quickly things went awry and what could have/should have been done to prevent it. Yet my fear of nearly being killed or disabled, is succumbing to a joy because God rescued me. He personally heard me and cared. I cannot contemplate any others who feel they have not been rescued by God, all I know is that I called out loud and clear, sure of Him, and He rescued. My Heavenly Father is a Rescuer. There is nothing better than knowing Him and being in His personal care.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Slowly our eyes began adjusting to the night, and my clutch on his arm became more relaxed. We took a few steps on the gravel driveway turning back toward our beautiful home, and tiny, odd greenish lights showed us the path. Where the gravel met the grass, sporadically spaced, their were mystical illuminations. At first I thought my eyes were tricking me, or maybe somehow there were miniscule battery-powered luminaries placed there as some sort of odd prank. As we walked I saw the lights hold their glow for an extended period of time, then gradually fade and reappear. As we neared the house, I reached down into the utter darkness of the ground, unsure what I would feel, and I dug my fingers under the light and placed it securely in my palm with a closed fist. It was so dark that absolutely nothing of the object could be visualized in my own hand.
Upon reached the house I released the luminary into a tupperware container and saw a black, rather ugly, multi-segmented beetle, with a posterior tiny glow. How delightful, I thought, that God would take something so unbecoming and give it a radiance that lit our path. We were looking at a glowworm, a female version of the common male firefly. I've lived a rather urban life, and the only interaction I've had with glowworms is a plastic, stuffed toy ,my daughter was once given. I'd loved it then, not knowing it was a replica of a real creation.
Tonight I encouraged my daughters to be glowworms. There may be times in our lives when we can be a city on a hill, but I think mostly we may resemble glowworms. The radiance of Christ in our lives may take some time for strangers to see, and alone we may sometimes feel insignificant or unbecoming. Yet together as the universal Church we may form a luminary path marking the way to the One radiance who never dims.
Dasen is right... walking in the dark to retrieve trash cans is romantic. I'm so thankful to have a husband to pull me into the night, and to have a God who exchanges my bitterness with a marvelous mystery reaching into my mundane moments.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
We are sitting at home on a beautiful Saturday at the end of summer in 2011. The dog is trying to test boundaries by having her paws and head across the divide of the homeschool room and dining room. Hannah is upset that Elle is yelling, re-enacting her Davy Crocket movie. Hannah is stating in a loud voice, "Don't you know I don't like loud noises." Hadiah is upset that Elle is bopping her in the face, once again re-enacting the fight scenes. Earlier Elle came rushing down from Sarah's room, running into her room and running back to Sarah's room caring a dress calling out, "I reckon I'll have to find myself a p-u-r-t-y dress." Soon after, Sarah and Elle modeled their changed dresses. Rebecca fried up some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with three of the girls rejecting the offing and making their own various things (as long as they clean-up).
Monday, August 15, 2011
Much has happened in the Eubank Ritchey family over the last few weeks. Rebecca had her birthday and our goal of getting her some time off alone turned into a week in Chicago taking a refresher PA course for her board renewal. Before she left, we went on our first trail ride with Montana and Sky. (Montana has anxiety when feelingleft alone so he always adds some spice to the proceedings. We hope to work on lowering the spice level. The main problem is that Rebecca is the main person to work with him and she left for a week. He is back to his naughtiness.) That same weekend we went up and hiked as a family near Cumberland Falls. (Did you know that one of the only "moonbows" from a waterfall is at Cumberland Falls?) We found an inlet spring and all took a refreshing swim as the hike is much better when rewarded with a swim. Sunday Rebecca left us for the week. We survived quite well, and Rebecca assures us that she is much smarter and knowledgeable now. She took classes from 7am to 6pm with a half hour lunch. She then took a two hour practice test each night. She came home to us in time to share our time with Katy, our next door neighbor in Middletown, and Carrie, Corbett, and Callie this past week.